My younger self considered the taste of whisky to be similar to an accidental ingestion of petrol. It gave a burning, chemical sensation, filling the nose with vapour, and the sense that the liquid just shouldn’t be there.
In July 2014, my wife ordered a bottle of Jura Origin for her father’s birthday. The Tesco delivery driver dropped off two half bottles instead. The bottles also had the security tags still left on them. Not what you would call a ‘result’.
I’d phoned Tesco and they said “return the bottle to the shop”. No, said I. We don’t get home delivery so we can return stuff to the shop. That’s not how this is going to work. They refunded the money and my wife got a replacement bottle. I pried off the security tags, eventually, and we had an extra two bottles on whisky.
We gave one of the half-bottles of Isle of Jura to my father in law along with the other full bottle. That left a half bottle, which I said I would try.
I poured a glass. It was far too strong. I popped in an ice cube and left it to sit a moment. Much better. I sipped it and it was completely different. There were flavours and tastes and subtleties and a depth to it that the diesel fumes of a neat whisky hid from me.
After experimenting, I discovered that my preferred way of drinking the whisky was with a splash of water. It was incredibly enjoyable.
I noticed that the effect of the whisky on my manner was different to beer, wine or other spirits. Whisky made me sit there with a big grin on my face. It had a relaxing, calming, amusing way about itself.
At the age of 41, I liked whisky.
My Christmas presents that year consisted, in no small part, of lots of bottles of malt whisky. Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie and Glenlivet. All of them were completely individual and yet similarly delicious.
Experience taught me that I preferred non-peaty whiskies. Any whisky took a glass or two to adjust to. Once properly acquainted, lifelong friendships were made.
I believe that many people get put off whisky because of that initial overwhelming burn of a straight measure. It’s a shame. I believe that many non-whisky drinkers are potentially able to enjoy whisky if they persisted to find the method of serving that would suit them. Water or ice may help. Maybe soda. My discovery has clearly encouraged me to present myself as a whisky ambassador.
And so as I go on with my whisky travels, discovering new distilleries and their work, making notes, and developing preferences, I invite you to join me. I won’t write as a whisky expert because I am not an expert. I will, however, write a novice’s guide to whisky and describe them my own way, perhaps providing a little info on the way that may help you discover a new whisky that suits your palette.